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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Wraparound: Time to shorten the NHL schedule?

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82 games, 246 periods, 4,920 minutes. That’s a lot of time spent doing anything, let alone throwing your body around on ice skates.

As we trudge past the two-thirds mark of the NHL calendar, it’s become almost an annual tradition to ask the question: Should the regular season be shorter?

This query doesn’t come from out of nowhere. Every year around this time, viewers witness the on-ice product worsen in what can be known as the February slog. Defensemen look fatigued. Play becomes more chippy. For the fortunate teams, the light at the end of the tunnel — the Stanley Cup Playoffs — should be in sight, but 30 more regular season games shroud it in darkness. For the not-so-lucky ones, the locker room is filled with minds all thinking the same thing: Why are we still playing meaningless hockey games?

Sure, the NBA plays 82 games while  the MLB typically plays 162, but unlike in basketball and baseball, NHL coaches don’t rest their players; they’re out there battling every night with a physicality level off the charts compared to that in baseball.

Shortening the schedule to even just 60 games would do wonders for the product of hockey. Fewer matchups means each game matters more, which would aid the league’s problem with regular season viewership. With more space between games, coaches would be given more time to teach and practice, something that’s unreasonably hard to do when playing four times in seven days. And most importantly, players would have more juice in the tank going into the NHL’s crown jewel: the playoffs. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?!

Unfortunately, the NHL Board of Governors wouldn’t — and won’t. Fewer games means fewer tickets purchased, and the league’s main source of income is gate revenue. But that won’t stop us fans from appealing for it!

Other thoughts from around the NHL:

  1. Stars forward Jason Robertson is blossoming into a superstar, becoming the first player since Alex Ovechkin in January 2020 to record back-to-back hat tricks this past weekend. Robertson is leading an impressive playoff push for Dallas.
  2. In the California sun, the Los Angeles Kings are heating up and the Anaheim Ducks are cooling down. Offseason additions Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson combined with an influx of youth are  fueling a nice run for the Kings, while Trevor Zegras’ on-ice circus is beginning to spin its wheels.
  3. Speaking of the West, who’s in and who’s out?! Besides the seemingly locked-in Colorado and Calgary, there are nine teams battling it out for six tournament spots. With the East’s playoff participants settled, the Western race is one to keep an eye on down the stretch.
  4. Forward Nick Schmaltz delivered a rare Coyotes highlight on Saturday against the Senators, picking up a whopping seven points in a single game. 
  5. The Sabres and the Maple Leafs will face off at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario this Sunday in the NHL’s sixth Heritage Classic. These spectacles could use some jazzing up — no one blinks an eye at an outdoor game now that we’ve had 18 years of them.

Enjoy the games this week — we’re almost past the February slog!